I was joking with an author-friend the other day about selling my own writing tips book, and I presented a tongue-in-cheek list of the steps to spontaneous writing. I am not a plotter. I can't plan my dinner meals, much less where a book is going to end up. So I have learned to do what my friend and I call "flow."
It's actually a scriptural principle, so though the points below are meant to be humorous (but in a strange way true), they are founded on Romans 8:14, "For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God." We are told, as Christians, to hear God's voice and follow it in everything we do. (Jn 10:4-5) To listen to the "still, small voice" in our heart telling us which way to walk. (1Ki 19:12)
I follow this principle as I write. I have as many as two dozen stories started at any one time. What I write in one maybe be one scene or a half dozen chapters on any given day. But when I'm done, I'm done, and I set that story aside and move on to whatever God has to me to work on next.
This doesn't make other methods of writing wrong. This is simply how I personally operate. I like the spontaneity of it, never knowing what will be next, allowing certain stories to cool and mellow before they're finished. Because the fact is, God always works it out in the end. I cannot begin to tell you the number of times I arrived at the end and couldn't believe how I'd even gotten there.
All of that said, below are my personal tips for writing with "flow."
1. Create only one character and forget there has to be anyone else.
I start with one main character. He or she is the primary purpose of the book, though with it being romance there will be another character. I sometimes write entire scenes without giving characters names, and instead, concentrate on what that particular scene needs to be complete. This means the scene often determines the character's personality. Truthfully, I often don't know where that character is going or who they are until I get more toward the end of the story.
2. Throw out any ideas on how the book should progress or end. You're writing only one scene.
Julie is in a sandwich shop and sees an attractive guy. I think no further than that. Instead, I ask how Julie would behave, what she'd say and do, and on what note to end things that will make a reader want to keep going.
3. Don't ask yourself where is this story going? You no longer care.
Every scene must end on a high note. By this, I mean with some sort of unanswered question. By not tying up all the loose ends, I lead the reader to read the next section to see what comes next.
4. When you get stuck. STOP WRITING. And create an entirely new story. Seriously, new character, new book. You'll come back to that one one day. BAM and know the entire plot at once.
This sounds like a joke, but it isn't. I write until I'm tapped out, then I move on. I may not come back to that story for months or it may be days. Then one morning I'll wake up and know exactly what comes next. You simply cannot plot that, but it requires listening to your heart and the thoughts in your head and learning to go with what is currently hot, so to speak.
5. If you're seriously stuck in a scene and still don't know where to go, switch POVs (point of views). Better yet, write the opposite scene of what you think should happen. Don't consider if it fits or not. Who cares?
My biggest tip for getting unstuck is to WRITE. Pick a POV, a character, and go with it. It may be all wrong when you get to the end, but you'll know it and hence be unstuck.
6. Marketing? What's that? Don’t consider what genre or if it’ll sell. Write the story you want to write.
My closest author friends know I do very little marketing. This frees me up to write. I'm aware some needs to be done to sell books, but I do what fits my time and personality, what is in my budget, and no more. If God gave me the story, if I listened to what He said to write, then the book will sell.
7. Think as outside the box as humanly possible. She MIGHT have killed him with a refrigerator...
Honestly, the stranger it is, the more people will like it. One of my most popular books was written when I asked someone to give me the strangest storyline ever. She said a couple in a hot air balloon crash in the middle of gun-running activists, and thus was born FLIGHT RISK. Another story, recently released, NOT DONE LIVING, came about because I saw this romantic picture of a couple kissing in front of a Ferris wheel and said, "She tried to kill him."
8. The hero can be as perfect as you want. He's fiction. Create your own man/woman.
He or she is your hero, so make them however you want them to be, keeping in mind people's thoughts and habits so they still appear to be real. Quirks are great. If he hates cheese, put it in the story. I only avoid making them too incredibly silly (or males that are too female, females that are too male) or too obnoxious so I don't alienate my reader. In a romance novel, people want the characters to be a bit perfect in the first place.
9. Always consider the reader as being wrong about what you've written, unless of course they LOVED IT. That's all you need to feed on.
Surround yourself with positive people. By this, I do NOT mean to ignore correction. Every writer needs to learn and grow and admit when they have a shortcoming. But there's no reason to spend time at websites reading reviews by those who didn't get the story. That negativity will affect your thinking and in the long run your writing, so avoid it.
10. Someone told you to stick to one group of readers? Psh.
I write romance, yes. But I've written YA (young adult) and non-YA. Romantic suspense, straight romance, historical romance, contemporary romance, paranormal romance, science-fiction (time-travel romance). Soon, I'm writing a story that's both historical and contemporary in the same book. I refuse to let anyone tell me what my stories need to be. There is a reader for every style, so I concentrate instead on writing well, not what I'm going to do with it or who will like it.
11. How long before you release another new book? 24 hours.
I do space books out. I'll decide to release certain ones on certain dates or before holidays - Valentine's and Christmas especially. (I give myself deadlines.) But I don't hold them back to concentrate on promoing any one for a while. If the story is done, edited, and formatted, then I release it. I've released six at once before.
Maybe you're not like me and you simply can't follow those rules. That's perfectly fine. I've met people who spend days and days editing. I do mine as I go along. I've met others that outline and do character charts, I don't. What fits one writer doesn't fit others. God will work with your style, your habits and time schedule, just like he does mine. You have only to take the time to listen.
Suzanne D. Williams
Suzanne Williams Photography
Williams is a native Floridian, wife, and mother, with a penchant for
spelling anything, who happens to love photography.
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